Get any of 3 vaccines, Fauci urges Americans after FDA nod to J& J shot
Top US infectious disease official Anthony Fauci on Sunday urged Americans to get any of the three Covid-19 vaccines available in the country after the Food and Drug Administration approved the single-dose jab from Johnson & Johnson.
Compared to the already approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, both of which need two doses, the J&J shot is also easier to store — does not need to be kept frozen — and transport.
“All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that’s most available to them. If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that’s the one that’s available now, I would take it,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
On Saturday, while announcing the emergency use authorisation for the J& J vaccine, FDA acting commissioner Janet Woodcock said, “The authorisation of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for Covid-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States.”
The J& J vaccine is expected to get final approval for widespread use on Sunday, and shipments are expected to begin on Sunday or Monday.
FDA said that overall, the vaccine is about 67% effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical Covid-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 66% effective in preventing moderate to severe/critical Covid-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination.
The vaccine has been found to be about 77% effective in preventing severe/critical Covid-19 occurring at least 14 days after vaccination and 85% effective in preventing severe/critical Covid-19 occurring at least 28 days after vaccination, it said.
The third vaccine comes amid growing concerns if the decline in number of cases and deaths will continue or stall. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday new data suggests that the steady decline in cases since January “may be stalling, potentially levelling off at, still a very high number”.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed higher efficacy rates in trials that used two doses versus J&J’s single-shot vaccine. However, Fauci and other experts say direct comparison is difficult because the trials had different goals and J&J’s was conducted while more contagious new variants of the virus were circulating.
Fauci said studies are now underway to determine their effectiveness and safety for children under 18, who are less likely to get sick from the virus.
Elementary-school students could get doses toward the end of the year or the beginning of next year, while high-school students could get it in the fall, Fauci said.
The new vaccine gives the US government another option as it tries to immunise as many Americans as quickly as possible. About 14% of Americans have received at least one dose so far, according to government data.
President Joe Biden has said there should be enough supply to vaccinate all Americans by the end of July.
Covid-19 has claimed more than half a million lives in the US, and states are clamouring for more doses to stem cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Daily infections have declined dramatically since their January peak, and some states have begun to loosen restrictions on public gatherings. However, Fauci warned that caseloads could rise again if officials move too quickly.
“It’s really too premature right now to be pulling back too much,” he said.
(With inputs from Agencies)